Time for Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu to adjust to the league’s adjustment

Ayo Dosunmu started to smile before the question was even finished.

The Bulls guard knew exactly where the conversation was going, especially since he’s been having it with his coaches and teammates on an almost daily basis.

“Yeah, for sure,” Dosunmu said. “The days of them leaving me wide open, those are over. It feels like they’re done with that.”

On one hand it should be a compliment for Dosunmu. The former Morgan Park High School standout now has to be game-planned for. He can see that, and feel it when he takes the court. On the other hand it’s a stark reminder that this is no longer a game of checkers Dosunmu is playing. It’s chess, and it’s on him to anticipate the next move on the board before it happens.

That’s where Dosunmu is right now – adjusting to the adjustment.

“Teams have definitely been watching the film and closing out more, but that’s just more recognition of the work that I put in over the summer and so far this season,” Dosunmu said. “Now it’s about making that next stride, making that next step.”

Steps he definitely took over the summer and that were on full display through the first month of the regular season.

While starring at the University of Illinois, the three-pointer was an accessory to his game. He took them, but he didn’t rely on them.

In his final season with the Illini Dosunmu did shoot 39% from three-point range, but put up far less from out there [82] than he did his previous two seasons. Back in the 2018-19 campaign, Dosunmu attempted 142 threes.

That was actually one of the concerns with him coming out of college – could he develop into a threat from outside? That’s how you go from first-round talent to the Bulls grabbing him in the second round with the 38th overall pick.

What the scouts missed on was Dosunmu’s work ethic. He not only asks tons of questions, but knows how to put the answers into practical use.

That’s what last summer was about.

The versatile guard knew that Lonzo Ball’s knee was an issue – maybe not to the extent it’s become – and that there could be a vacancy at the starting point guard spot, so the grind started almost right after the Bulls saw their playoff run ended by Milwaukee.

Atop that priority list was making himself a threat from three-point range.

After shooting 37.6% from three last season and averaging 2.4 attempts per game, the payoff of that work was seen right when camp started.

Dosunmu shot 55% from three in the four preseason games and carried that into the start of the regular season. In his first six games, Dosunmu strutted out of the month of October shooting 46% from three and taking a healthy four per game.

The film doesn’t lie, and the rest of the league took note of that.

Through Dosunmu’s last six games? The defense has played him tighter, the numbers have dwindled. Dosunmu will enter Sunday’s game with Denver getting up 3.8 threes per game over that span, and watching his percentage drop to 30.4.

“That’s the game, making that next adjustment,” Dosunmu said. “It’s about me taking the open ones, making the open ones, but also knowing when to play off the closeout and read it better.”

The very point coach Billy Donovan has been stressing to Dosunmu. Donovan wants his guard to still be a threat from outside, but also understand how to attack the closeouts more consistently by going to the rim or simply moving the ball to open spaces.

In other words, seeing the chessboard with more clarity.

“There’s so much I’m working on – defense, passing, my shot from outside … that’s been a big part of my game, my development,” Dosunmu said. “Now I have to keep figuring out different ways to manipulate the offense, manipulate the game for my team.”

Knowing Dosunmu he will, and the rest of the league will undoubtedly be waiting.

NOTE: Bulls big man Nikola Vucevic was fined by the NBA for an obscene gesture made in Wednesday’s loss to the Pelicans.

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